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“My Job Is Making Me Miserable”

Better Job, Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Copy Room Over The Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

I’m going through a really rough time at work, and I’m seriously considering finding a new job or just quitting all together. I can’t figure out if it’s just the job that’s so bad, or if the real problem is me and I’d take my same issues with me to a new job. I’m a 27-year-old mechanical engineer, and this is my second job out of college.

I dread going into the office for work every day. When I’m away on business trips, which is increasingly becoming half the time, I am often overcome with anxiety and the complete inability to focus. I have endless lists of things that I need to do that I feel like I can never catch up on. But also I have the feeling that it doesn’t matter if I never catch up or do everything to the best of my ability because no one at my office besides me seems to care about my quality of work. This place is definitely not a team environment – it’s every person for himself, and it’s very hard to get any support or help. The thought of quitting my job is so tempting – I feel like a huge weight would be lifted off my shoulders and I’d finally be able to breath again. Eventually, I’m sure I’d get anxiety about not having a job and money, but I do have enough saved that I could last an entire year and then some without a job. At least that is one thing good about this job – it pays really well.

I never felt this way at my last job. I loved going into work (almost) every day, and I took a lot of pride in the work that I did. I was busy, but not overwhelmed. I was challenged, but always knew I could ask for help if needed. I left that job because of the location (the plant was in a very small town) to move back to the city when I got an offer for this job.

I have suffered from depression and anxiety before in the past though, so I worry that these feelings I have about my job now have little to do with the actual job and are all about me. Shouldn’t I be able to handle the stress of this job? Shouldn’t I be able to focus and get these endless lists of stuff done? If I left this job and went to another, would I just repeat my same problems over there?

I guess another piece that bothers me about the thought of leaving is that I would be giving up. I don’t want to think of myself as a quitter. I’d be leaving tons of projects in a state of disarray which makes me feel very guilty. I was so meticulous when I left my last job and had everything handed over to new project managers very organized so that I felt I was leaving things behind in a good state. I’ve had talks with my boss over the past two months about being overwhelmed with too many projects, and he has taken some of the workload off, which was a huge relief. But this hasn’t seemed to help as much as I had hoped since I’ve only gotten more orders from customers since that time.

I don’t know what advice I’m really looking for. Maybe: how can I overcome these feelings of guilt and inadequacy if I were to leave (either just quitting or for a different job)? If I do stay, how can I work through the anxiety and get done what I need to? And have you or any readers felt like this before at your jobs? What did you do and how did it work out? — Hating My Job

This isn’t a relationship question, but I’m posting your letter because your issue is one that a lot of people, including me, have experienced, can relate to, and can offer some advice about. First of all, if you don’t already have a therapist, I’d suggest finding one immediately. What you’re describing sounds like more than just disliking a job; you’re describing anxiety (and maybe depression), and, since you have a history of anxiety and depression, it’s not a stretch to believe you could be suffering from these again. As you probably already know, anxiety and depression can be treated pretty easily, and there’s no reason to continue suffering when help is often readily available. So let that be your first step. I also suggest getting a full physical to rule out any medical issues that could be affecting your overall well-being.

It’s quite possible — even likely — that treating your anxiety may not solve the entire problem. Even for the the most healthy person, a bad job situation can make him or her miserable. Maybe your current position and the company you work for and the people you work with just aren’t a good fit for you. If after you’ve talked to your boss about your unhappiness and together made changes in your duties and you’re still unhappy, there’s no shame AT ALL in looking for a job that is a better fit for you. It doesn’t make you a quitter. At least, not in the sense that you’re irresponsible or don’t finish what you’ve started. You aren’t a kid any more. Your career isn’t the same thing as taking piano lessons or running a fundraiser for the your soccer team. It’s your career. It’s where you spend a huge chunk of your life, and, if you aren’t happy, then it’s irresponsible not to find ways to change your situation. So, start looking for a new job. Look far and wide. Sometimes, just reminding ourselves that there are other options — there are escape routes! — eases the anxiety we feel about being where we are.

I have definitely had jobs I disliked or hated — some more than others. Sometimes it was the people I worked with that I didn’t like, sometimes it was the low pay for the amount of effort involved, sometimes it was the lack of regard and credit from others for the work I did, and sometimes it was simply the work itself. And I’ve done everything from quitting a job when I didn’t have another lined up and didn’t have much money saved (do not recommend) to finding a better job to building a freelance career in my off hours to getting a new position at the same company to establishing a work-from-home agreement with my employers to creating my own damn job and becoming my own damn boss. Some of these “escape routes” worked better than others, but the one thing they all had in common was that they took me from a place of passivity to a place of assertiveness. I was unhappy about something in my job and I made a change, and, even when the change didn’t always result in the outcome I had hoped for, the sheer empowerment I felt by doing something about my unhappiness always had a huge effect on my emotional well-being.

So… while I don’t suggest you simply quit a job you hate without having a Plan B (besides just living off your savings for a year), I do suggest you get to work on creating that Plan B (and Plan C and so on). Look for other work. Ask about going part-time where you are now until you find another job. Get in touch with a headhunter who specializes in your industry. Network, network, network (go to industry events, connect with former classmates and colleagues on LinkedIn and Facebook and various other social and/or industry sites). Get in touch with your former employers at the job you liked so well and ask whether they know of openings in your field. Hell, maybe they’d even consider hiring you for telecommuting work, even on a freelance basis.

I know you feel stuck, but you aren’t. And if you are single and unencumbered by children and aren’t responsible for anyone else, you have even more freedom to take some risks (like accepting a lower-paying job or uprooting your life and moving to a new city, or going part-time for a while to lower your stress). Don’t think of moving on as “quitting.” Think of it as getting un-stuck.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar Christy August 4, 2014, 9:09 am

I’ve felt like that at my job. Therapy is really helping. I see an anxiety specialist and she’s amazing. You might have the same anxiety issues in any new job, you might not, but treating the anxiety might give you some clarity about the job situation.
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Unrelated, but @Wendy, is the posting time back to 9 AM EST? I’ve been so confused about the posting time, and the 10 AM posting time really threw me. (9 works really well with my work schedule, and I don’t always remember to check at 10, because I’m more in-the-swing-of-things work-wise.) Just curious.

avatar MissDre August 4, 2014, 9:13 am

I like the 9 AM posting time too, mostly because I just hate waiting :)

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy August 4, 2014, 10:02 am

Hi Christy, sorry for the confusion about posting time. I experimented with a 10 AM posting time for a month to see how it worked, but I think 9 AM seems to be better for most readers. I feel bad for our west coast friends who sometimes feel like they get to the posts after all the commenting is dying down, but I’m making more of an effort to post content in the later afternoon to help balance things out.

avatar Portia August 4, 2014, 10:46 am

I totally support a 9am posting time :)

Moneypenny Moneypenny August 4, 2014, 12:53 pm

Thanks Wendy! As a west coaster I like that there’s a letter already up and running when I go online in the morning, and the second letter posts right around lunch!

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy August 4, 2014, 12:56 pm

Good to know, thanks!

Addie Pray Addie Pray August 4, 2014, 1:20 pm

Wendy, i typically wake up at 5:30 am CT and here are the things I check for on my phone right away in no particular order: (i) new emails, (ii) new FB messages, (iii) new texts, and (iv) new DW posts….. So maybe throw a new post out out at 5:30 am for me mmmkay thanks bye. … *or* I can wait until 8 am CT, that works too.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy August 4, 2014, 1:27 pm

Actually, this is probably a good poll question, because there are european readers who might wish there was a new post up earlier too. I almost always have the morning’s first post written a day ahead, so I can really post it any time.

avatar SasLinna August 5, 2014, 9:08 am

Yes, that would be me. :-)

avatar norabb August 4, 2014, 9:18 am

I empathize with you, LW. There is no sense in staying in a job that makes you miserable. A lot of people don’t have the privilege to switch jobs or have a choice in what they do, but you have the power (and the savings! If you research “Should I Quit My Job” anywhere on the internet, one of the main tips is having at least a year in savings to fall back on, so good job!)
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I was in a horrible job situation, where my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t enjoy my off-time since I knew I’d have to go back in a few hours. I couldn’t sleep through the night. I’d cry on the way to work, during work, I’d have panic attacks…I also suffer from depression and anxiety. If you’re already predisposed to it, then work is just going to bring out the stressors that make you sick. And depression is an illness. If you had lung cancer, you’d quit smoking cigarettes. So if something is getting in the way of your mental (and thus, physical) well-being, you need to get it out of your life somehow.
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You’re not a quitter, because you obviously care very much about your work, and you’ve tried many things to make things easier. But it’s not enough. Give yourself permission to be happy. My advice is to write a list of the things that made you anxious, or the things that you really hated about the job. Then make a list of the things you really loved, or would like about potential job. That way you know the red flags when you’re looking for another job and you won’t get into the same situation again.
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Seriously, your mental health is so important. You cannot be a whole person without it. Realize that you deserve a great place to work, that there ARE such places that exist, and that you don’t need to torture yourself because you feel like you ‘should’.
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Also, in the meantime, while you’re searching, I suggest finding something in your off hours to get your mind off of work. Have something to look forward to! I started an improv course while I was waiting for the right time to leave my job, and it helped me channel my energy in a constructive way. Plus I met a lot of new friends and have had amazing experiences!
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Go for it! Good luck! You deserve happiness!

avatar MissDre August 4, 2014, 9:23 am

I have been absolutely MISERABLE in my jobs too. I had three jobs in my field out of college and I absolutely HATED all of them. I was getting sick all the time from stress, I had no life because I just had zero energy to do anything and I felt seriously depressed.
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I was already planning to leave my third and MOST miserable job when I got fired. Yep, after 6 months of misery, they called me into the office, made me sign a release form and said someone will escort you to your desk to pack your things. It was HUMILIATING. It probably took about 2 weeks for the anxiety and humiliation of getting fired to go away.
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But it’s been more than a year now since getting fired and I look on it now as a blessing. I was really lucky that I was able to live on unemployment insurance for long enough to get my shit together and do what I really wanted to do. It was a relaxing break for my mind and soul to be off for the summer. Then I got myself a Life Coach (ReginaRey! For those of you who remember her) and she’s really been helping me get my shit together enough to go after money doing what I love.
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I’m working full time now for my family business, which is a dream come true, and my Coach is helping me start a freelancing business on the side.
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I know this post was all about ME and my situation was a little different (I was FORCED to make a change) but I am hoping that my own story can give you a little encouragement. It’s not an easy overnight road but you CAN get out of your shitty miserable job and find something that makes you happy.
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Getting on the right antidepressant and maybe seeing a counsellor might help you as well. Honestly though, you don’t have to accept misery. I know that it can feel like there’s no way out, but life can change in the blink of an eye.
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Good Luck LW!

TaraMonster TaraMonster August 4, 2014, 10:31 am

ReginaRey!! That’s a name I haven’t heard in while. Send her DW love from us!

avatar MissDre August 4, 2014, 10:48 am

Will do :) I’ll actually be talking to her today!

Addie Pray Addie Pray August 4, 2014, 1:54 pm

Gasp, will you tell her I said Hi! No, say “hello” and say it with a French accent or something so I sound posher, thanks.

avatar MissDre August 4, 2014, 2:12 pm

Addie, ReginaRey says she misses you and she still Facebook stalks you and your cute dog :-P

Addie Pray Addie Pray August 4, 2014, 2:15 pm

Awww, that’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.

Addie Pray Addie Pray August 4, 2014, 2:19 pm

Tell me again what she said but tell me slowly. I want to take it all in.

avatar MissDre August 4, 2014, 2:31 pm

She. Thinks. Your. Dog. Is. Cute.

Addie Pray Addie Pray August 4, 2014, 2:33 pm

(swoon)
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remember that time RR Facebook stalked me and you told me about it? that was so fun.

Lyra Lyra August 4, 2014, 9:26 am

Oh man, my first full time job out of college caused me so much anxiety and depression. I was in the exact same place that you describe, LW. I am a teacher, and I took a job primarily to be closer to my then boyfriend (obviously that didn’t work out). It was the wrong move and I realized that pretty much immediately. I had plans to stay for 2 years max, and then move back to where I wanted to live.
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Right around Christmas break it hit me like a ton of bricks how miserable I actually was. I was home for the break (8 hour drive from the town my job was in) and I had a melt down. I was packing up to go back and I just started crying because I was overwhelmed. By that time I had broken up with my ex (thank goodness!), but I also hated my job. I wasn’t good at it, I wasn’t having much success at all, and I felt this overwhelming “us versus them” because of the fact that the students and families almost viewed me as an outsider. I never felt like the job was a good fit for me and I was basically just trying to get through the year. I had started counting down to summer in about January. Yup, not a good sign as a teacher.
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I put in my resignation around April because I had realized I couldn’t do it another year. I just couldn’t sign another contract for another year of misery. My own happiness was worth a lot more than that. It was a hard decision because I felt like a failure. I felt like I hadn’t accomplished what I had set out to do and that was a hard pill to swallow. I’m not one to give up easily, and it felt like I was giving up — giving up on myself and giving up on my students. The school year ended and my dad drove out to move me back home with them. I’m forever grateful for my parents for taking in their 25-year-old homeless, unemployed daughter. Fortunately my savings got me through the summer and during that time I found the job I’m in now. It’s a job I love and I live in a location I love, despite taking a considerable pay cut. I can still support myself. I’m happy going in to school, and my students make it worthwhile (seriously, my kids are the best). It’s night and day how different I feel now versus when I was in a job that I hated.
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My best piece of advice? Life is too short to work in a job you hate. Take the steps necessary to get yourself out of your current position and find a job that is more rewarding for you.

Kate Kate August 4, 2014, 9:27 am

I like Wendy’s advice a lot. When you have that cushion saved up, it’s nice to know it’s there, and to have that feeling that you COULD quit and you’d be fine. However, I wouldn’t recommend you actually do that. As long as you’re earning a great paycheck every 2 weeks, you’re getting closer to being able to retire, maybe pretty early if you keep making good money and saving. Why deliberately put yourself in a situation to blow through tens of thousands of dollars that you’ve saved through hard work? Then you’d no longer have that cushion, and what if you needed it? Also, having to explain that you basically couldn’t take the pressure and just quit your previous job, could be a big obstacle to overcome when you’re interviewing for your next position. I would tend to take a pass on a candidate who told me that.
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I’d recommend you focus on getting treated for anxiety and depression. Your company’s Employee Assistance Program 800-number would be a good start. Also, traveling half the time sounds like a lot. Did you sign up for that? Meaning, did they tell you when you were interviewing that the job involved 50% travel? If not, you may be able to talk to your boss and let her know the travel burden is just becoming too much and you can’t be on the road this percentage of the time and still cover all your deliverables.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana August 4, 2014, 9:40 am

So this could have been written by me besides the anxiety part. I just hate my job. This may be dramatic but getting up and coming in to work every day is a Sisyphean effort that is getting harder to bear. My company is terrible, I hate the type of work I do, and I make barely enough to live off of. I have about $15 in my bank account until Thursday, and am living off of cheerios. I apply to new jobs every week, and have heard nothing. I have also completely depleted my savings because I don’t make enough to cover rent some months, and food, and other things that crop up-and I have credit card debt so don’t actually have or use a credit card. Anyways I have no real advice because it is making me more depressed by the day except here are a few things that help make me not hate my life completely:
1. Apply to new jobs-I apply to at least 1 job a week- I live in a smallish city/town and it is sometimes hard to even find 1 job a week to apply to, but the weeks of hope it gives me that I may get an interview is worth it.
2. Fill your outside job hours with a lot of awesome things and people and if your job is flexible make that work to your advantage. I can come in to work at 8 and leave at 4 which gives me so much of my nights to fill with hobbies I love-woodworking, crafts, yoga, cooking and baking, hanging with my boyfriend and friends, biking, going to shows etc.
3. If you do have an awesome life outside of work, try to re-frame how you view work–I look at my shitty ass job as means that allows me to stay in the city I live in, which I otherwise have no ties to, and enjoy the rich life outside of what I am doing.
That said–it is getting harder for me everyday to not just up and quit, even with no back up plan. I know this is the absolute worst idea, but honestly the quality of my life and mental state working here-I just am not really sure how worth it is.
Anyways I know this isn’t much great advice, but know there are people out there who commiserate, and at 27 I feel even more lost because I am not even on a career path I want to stay on. I hate what I am doing. I get feeling like you are in this deep hole though and anxiety and depression are threatening to swallow you whole-just try to keep in mind work is just one part of your life and nothing is permanent. That is the mantra I repeat to myself. People keep telling me “something will come” or “don’t lose hope” and I really don’t believe it will and I am just tired of not having the power to really just go out and get a job-and being assertive in the job search alleviates some of that, so yeah–good luck either way. Try to keep your chin up :)

avatar Christy August 4, 2014, 9:44 am

Have you considered looking for work in that larger city an hour to the east? I had several professors in college who commuted from that larger city to the college town an hour to its east, so the commute would be doable, if not ideal. Because I think your town could be worth that commute.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana August 4, 2014, 10:18 am

I did at first, like a year ago when I started looking-but I haven’t in awhile actually focused my search on that location. I would be willing to do the commute though because what I am doing right now is not to be too dramatic but just sort of killing my soul. I had sort of forgotten about that place-but will start looking there again. Thanks for the reminder.

the_optimist the_optimist August 4, 2014, 10:06 am

Oof. I SO relate to you, muchacha AND the LW (in content and even in age). These seriously could have both been written by me. I’m so broke it hurts, and attempts at second jobs/scraping together money on the side from selling things on ebay and doing weird surveys is just not cutting it. This past week has been especially bad, between bosses making TOTALLY inappropriate comments and me just feeling completely lost and loser-y for not being able to just figure out a path for myself. Sorry to vent, and also sorry that we’re all in what seems to be the same boat. Here’s to hoping it gets better for all of us.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana August 4, 2014, 10:20 am

it’s nice to know people commiserate. I look around and see what looks like people in dream jobs or at least making a good living and having some clue of what they want to do, even if it just the standard office job. I am the point where I am considering quitting to work in a restaurant because I would probably make more money and enjoy it more. It is definitely hard to just not get a break or a single interview in months of applying for jobs. blegh. sometimes a vent in necessary.

the_optimist the_optimist August 4, 2014, 10:40 am

You’ve just said exactly what I’ve been thinking for months on end. Hugs, muchachaenlaventana!

avatar Laura Hope August 4, 2014, 10:06 am

My professional advice as a seasoned Recruiter , is to get your resume together and conduct a search for a new position while you have this one. A person is much more marketable while employed. Do not let your current employer know you are searching because they will most likely start looking for your replacement. Since you were happy in your last position, it sounds like the problem lies with the job, not you. A poor working environment can make an otherwise happy person miserable. If, however, in your next position you feel overwhelmed once again, then I would start looking inward.

veracityb veracityb August 4, 2014, 10:15 am

Life is definitely too short to feel that miserable. I personally don’t think it’s a terrible thing to take a bit of time off and not to leap too immediately into another job just to recentre yourself and get yourself back on track as to what is important to you in life. Clearly you would not tell a prospective employer that you couldn’t handle the pressure – hopefully you’d express it in terms of a character building opportunity (if for instance you decided to take time off to travel, recharge and give yourself a bit of perspective beyond a life built around a career). Perhaps it was this article that informs my views: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bronnie-ware/top-5-regrets-of-the-dyin_b_1220965.html

avatar peachy August 4, 2014, 10:20 am

It wasn’t completely clear to me if your endless to-do list of things you don’t get done is a personal or job-related list but…stop..just stop making that list, first of all, and second, get some help for the anxiety before you give yourself a coronary, Engineer.
You know what a challenging, supportive, enjoyable work environment is like and your current job is not providing this, although to the good it got you out of too small a town and is well-paying. Let go of whatever “shoulds” are playing in your head – I should be able to navigate this [horror], I should keep the commitment I made to this [soul-sucking]company, etc. and take back your power. Answers to “what I want for my career is” and “what would inspire me is” are good places to start in finding your next step. The fact is you are sitting very pretty in being able to choose that next step, so well done you and keep your chin up!

Lyra Lyra August 4, 2014, 10:36 am

For me lists actually help. They help me to get things in order and I love seeing things crossed off. I’m not sure if the LW is the same way, but it helps me to feel more in control of the stuff I have to get done. At the very least it helps me to get everything on the table and lay things out so I see what I need to accomplish.

Addie Pray Addie Pray August 4, 2014, 10:35 am

This is great because I bet EVERYONE can relate to this! Me too. I share so much here so sorry if I’ve already told this story a million times, but here’s what I did when I felt I hit a similar road block in my career (and life, really – because work takes up such a huge chunk of your life/identify/time/energy): I went to see a psychologist who focuses on careers. It was a 3-session thing that went like this:
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Session 1 – talk about your background relating to school, fields of study/interests, hobbies, and also your work history and talk about things you were good at and not good at and thinks you liked and didn’t like. He gave me a take-home test that consisted of a long-ass list of THINGS, such as reading, talking to people, standing up, sitting down, taking apart, putting stuff together, reading on computers, organizing, working with others, working alone, following orders, giving orders, travel, etc. etc. and for each one I had to indicate on a scale of 1 to 5 or something how much I like or don’t like those tasks. They were a little more nuanced than what I just wrote but you get the gist. It took forever to finish, there were so many things on the list. And I had to focus on what I LIKED or didn’t mind and not necessarily what I was good at.
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Session 2 was me turning in my answers and then talking more about things I like and don’t like – more Session 1 stuff.
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Session 3 was reviewing my test results with the psychologist. The exam (and geez it’s like some old classic exam they’ve been giving for years, he said, but I can’t remember the name) basically takes your answers and spits out several lists – e.g., top 10 careers for you (I was really pissed to see attorney at the top of the list, fuckers that what I was trying to get away from, hahaha!), top 10 careers to avoid. It also shows you your results by subject matter – it gives you a number or percentage (I can’t remember how it was ranked) for each type of activity which indicates how likely you are to enjoy a career in that category. He said most types of activities fall in a gray zone, which means you may or may not like careers in that category – it would depend on the particular aspects of the job – e.g., you can imagine being an “attorney” at one job could be night and day from the “attorney” position at another job. He said to pay close attention tot he activities at the extreme of the scale – the stuff you’ll probably hate (or love) no matter what. For me, sales/market was almost OFF THE CHARTS at the very very very bottom of the list. He said to avoid any job with those types of activities.
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It kind of all made sense. At that time I was at a point in my legal career where I was hating it…. But I was also at that “it’s time to become partner” stage where business development is CRITICAL. So it kind of made sense that would not like my legal job (SALES, GROSS!!!!).
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All this to say: focusing on the LITTLE THINGS I like and don’t like was really helpful. Breaking it down helped me see what aspects of my job were killing me softly with its song. (I dunno.)
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This 3-session thingy cost an arm and a leg but I bet you could find exams like that on Google (I think, I don’t know how you’d grade it and get results). It was just a really cool way to get me to realize what I like and don’t like so I could make changes to get the job that would make me happy.

Addie Pray Addie Pray August 4, 2014, 11:06 am

So, I just read back over your letter and maybe i didn’t actually address your question (reading comprehension, hard!) but TO THE EXTENT your anxiety and whatnot is stemming from your work but you’re not really sure why or what to change and how, I still say taking a really close look at what you enjoy and what exactly you are not enjoying could help you figure out if a big career change is necessary or if there are little changes you can make at work to make you happier.

Addie Pray Addie Pray August 4, 2014, 12:02 pm

Also: I’d be cautious about quitting before you have something lined up. (I did that once and it worked out but I got lucky.) It’s just always easier to find a new job when you already have one. Also don’t think you’d be doing your company a favor by giving them a head’s up, to the extent you were thinking about doing so. A coworker’s girlfriend wanted to change jobs and, despite all good advice not to, she told her before she had something lined up. Her rationale was that she works for a non-profit, not some meanie money-hungry corporation (i don’t even know what that means) and that her boss is nice and she didn’t want them to have to scramble to find someone, so she figured she’d let him know and that she could keep on working until she found a new job. …. So what happened? They found a replacement for her and gave her 2 weeks notice – several months before she wanted to be out. Whoops.

avatar Laura Hope August 4, 2014, 10:46 am

I completely disagree that a potential employer will look favorably on walking away from a lucrative position to “find yourself”, travel etc., particularly in this economy. And of course you don’t tell them you can’t handle your current position. You find a way to spin it in your favor. People do it every day.

Kate Kate August 4, 2014, 12:22 pm

Agree, I’d consider that a red flag if I were hiring someone. If there were other promising candidates who were currently employed, I’d favor them over the person who told me they left to “find themselves,” no matter how positively they framed it. And you just never know how long that stretch of unemployment is going to last. It could be more than a year… and then what if the dream position you find pays less than what you were making and you’re no longer able to save much money for a while – you would no longer have that emergency fund. Best to sit on it and see how you can improve your current situation, if at all, while looking for a new job.

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki August 4, 2014, 11:02 am

I think many people have been in soul sucking jobs. I was stuck in one for over 3 years (government job made worse by a new governor) but eventually dug my way out. If you’re comfortable living off your savings until you find a new job, go for it. Otherwise, start developing a plan to get out. Update your resume, put out some feelers, apply for jobs that come up (even some that maybe don’t pay *quite* what you want but that you can use to get out and supplement your income with your savings) and connect with other people in your field.
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Don’t worry about leaving your job in whatever state it is in now. You will never get out if you want to tie it up in a neat little bow for the next person. Just do the best you can and do what is best for YOU. And please get help for your anxiety/depression. It won’t magically solve your problems, but it will put you in a better place to deal with them.

dabbler dabbler August 4, 2014, 12:19 pm

This sounds like it’s a bad/incompatible environment rather than the job itself.
I’m in a similar industry, (I’m a mechanical designer), so I can relate. Being on a good team really is vital.
The lists are endless, especially when you’re on multiple projects, which it sounds like you are. Sometimes the job can be overwhelming, and it’s infinitely worse when it’s poorly managed.
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You sound like you genuinely care about the quality of your work, and I’d be willing to bet a good chunk of your anxiety comes from inexperience and not having the support you need. There’s just so much you still don’t know, and you need to be able to ask questions. You didn’t say when you graduated, but I’m guessing it was in the last couple of years. You start out as a junior engineer for a reason. It takes years to build experience, and at least where I am, they pair us junior people up with someone more senior to help us learn, and make sure we don’t screw up too badly. :)
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I have worked with people who go to a level of detail that I never even knew existed, and I’ve worked with people that are more like, “yeah, whatever, I’m sure it’s fine.” When you actually care about the outcome, there’s a lot more anxiety in working with the “whatever” kind of guys.
I’ve been in my job about 4.5 years, and I’m just getting I to where I feel like I (mostly) know what I’m doing, and I’ve had a really great mentor for the last 2-3 years of that.
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But in this industry, what you “know” changes every day, from project to project. What you knew yesterday, doesn’t always translate to this application. That’s where experience and being able to call on that guidance comes in. If you’re not getting that in this job, you’re not doing yourself (or your career) any favors by staying, let alone what it’s doing to your mental state.

dabbler dabbler August 4, 2014, 12:37 pm

And by “not doing yourself any favors,” I just mean not to feel bad about quitting. There’s no shame in being able to recognize when something’s not a good fit. Employers have no problem firing someone when they’re not holding up their end of the deal, and you should be able to do so as well, without remorse.

avatar Elle Marie August 4, 2014, 12:27 pm

Did I write this letter and am just completely forgetting about it?

I slipped into a really severe episode of clinical depression (I have a history of major depressive disorder) and felt overwhelmed and miserable at work, with intense anxiety attacks. My job can be stressful, but I think it was the underlying depression that really made it impossible to cope with the normal work stress.

I wound up having to take a leave of absence from work and had a hospitalization to treat the depression – thankfully all protected by FMLA, and partially paid via my employer’s extended sick leave policy. I wound up getting electroconvulsive therapy (modern shock treatment) for the depression, because it has zero systemic side effects and the safer SSRIs had all failed to give a positive response – within 10 days/4 treatment sessions, I was depression-free and feeling incredible. I still have some mild anxiety, but it is something that can be primarily managed via dialectical behavior therapy (combination of talk therapy and stress management techniques, like exercise and yoga), and I am no longer heavily dependent on benzodiazapenes.

When you’re clinically depressed, it is VERY hard to separate what you feel versus what the depression is making you feel. One of my very good friends describes severe depression as “all sneaky and whispery” – that has definitely been my experience. It creeps in and undermines everything in your life until there is nothing solid left to stand on. Depression is primarily crappy brain chemistry, and not any failing on your part, though I know that can be really hard to remember when times get rough.

Please get help for yourself. You deserve so much better, and there is light at the end of the tunnel (even if it doesn’t feel that way right now).

avatar ktfran August 4, 2014, 1:12 pm

I haven’t read all the advice yet, but LW, I’ll tell you the same thing I told a very close friend.
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If a job is not working out for whatever reason – the people, the actual work, whatever – please do not feel guilty about leaving or looking for a new job. ESPECIALLY, if you have talked about your concerns and a concerted effort was not made to change the status quo.
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I’ve been working for, god, 11 years now and the one thing I have found to be true about most companies, and I’m sure there are a few exceptions, is that they are usually not loyal to you, so do not feel bad about finding something more suited. You are not a quitter for leaving. You are making your life better, as I’m sure every CEO is doing when they lay people off, or close shop, or sell the company or cut benefits.
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Sorry, I’m a little jaded at the moment about big business. But I don’t think my advice is any less valid.

avatar Lucy August 4, 2014, 2:32 pm

This could have been written by me before I quit my last corporate job. Obvs I don’t know you, LW, but to me it sounds like the main problem is the job, but that your own issues are compounding how you’re responding to a shitty situation. It’s not clear to me from your letter whether you’re looking for a new job? If not, I would start doing that. For me, when I started to get burned out on a particular job, either because something there had changed for the worse, or I was just sick of it, looking for a new job always made me feel better, like I had something to look forward to. If looking for a new job instead makes you feel worse, then some therapy to help with your coping skills is probably in order.

Cassie Cassie August 4, 2014, 4:07 pm

LW, I also second everyone’s suggestions of looking for a new job while employed. Think of how you can spin this positively so that it makes you look like a good candidate. I am not sure about your field, but would the desire for a collaborative, team-like environment work in your favor?

While you’re searching for a new job, think about how you can put in coping mechanisms for this job. I was teaching at a school one year where it was pretty similar. It was stressful way beyond the norm of teaching, they always piled on pointless ‘projects’, there was a lot of busy work so admin could just check up on people as opposed to spending our time creating quality lesson plans, there were certain people in the environment who were very negative and back-stabbing, etc. It was a horrible experience, and I knew I would not renew my contract for another year. My mental and emotional health was more important to me, and I (as well as others) would end up crying at work on multiple occasions due to stress and just dread going to work.

What helped me to get through the rest of the year was putting in place coping strategies. I would spend 5 minutes writing in a thankfulness journal (usually about how I had helped a student that day). I spent 5 minutes at the end of the day listening to a Pandora comedy channel just in order to laugh before I went home (which is a great stress reliever). I also limited my time spent on unimportant things. I am someone who likes to give 110% to whatever I do. But in that job, it was ending up being to my detriment. So, I gave 110% to things that mattered, such as my lesson plans. I limited the time and effort I put into some of the other things, such as the busywork assigned by admin. I made sure I went home at a reasonable time at least 2 or 3 times a week and would not touch work stuff the rest of those evenings to get some separation.

Basically, find what will help you cope until you find a new job.

avatar _s_ August 4, 2014, 7:17 pm

As someone who has been in your shoes, I say get out and don’t look back. Like you, I was miserable in my old job, and didn’t understand why I couldn’t just get over it and be happy and make it work. A bad job is almost like an abusive partner – it makes you think YOU’RE crazy and there’s something wrong with YOU, when THEY are the ones treating you like shit. Someone above said “Give yourself permission to be happy” and it’s worth restating, as is the sentiment that you should NOT guilt yourself into not leaving. It’s been a year now since I left my old job, and my new job is so much better (read: normal) that it’s like night and day, and I can’t believe I stayed in my old job being miserable for so long. Nothing in my life changed except my job, but I feel like a whole different (non-miserable) person. I want to go back and smack some sense into myself-five-years ago, but since I can’t the next best thing I can do is pass on the advice to people like you. I would suggest hanging in your current job until you can find a new job if you can handle it, and then give your two weeks notice, wrap up as best you can, and GTFO. Your network is your best friend – I got bupkis from cold applications (though you should still submit them), but found my current job through an old boss who knew my current boss was looking to hire someone and knew I was looking! Good luck.

avatar liz August 4, 2014, 7:40 pm

I feel ya. LW, I didn’t realize my last job was that awful until I got my next, present one. For me, I was at the new place a week, then two, then a month, and I kept waiting for it to “get bad.” It never did. I kept telling myself the “easy” part would soon be over when my boss treated me like a human being, a friend even but it never changed! And now I’ve been there a year and a half. I am not in the industry I plan to be in forever, and actually interviewed for an exciting opportunity last week, but this job has been a truly great experience and I will measure my next job(s) against it. For me, I could never put myself in the situation you’re describing willingly again. I hope you can find the time and energy to find something new, because a better fit is out there. :)